This week, we harvested our three full beds of garlic.
Its been a long time coming. We planted the garlic waay back at the very end of the last growing season, a few weeks before the first big freeze in November. We planted two varieties: Inchelium Red, a softneck, and Chesnook Red, a hardneck. Whats the difference? Softneck garlic is easier to grow, keeps longer, and has more (albeit a bit smaller than hardneck) cloves. They also braid easily, as their stalks become soft and pliable. Almost any garlic you buy in the supermarket is a softneck variety.
Hardneck garlic is stiffer (hence the name) and has fewer, but larger, cloves. Because it does not have as much of a white papery skin surrounding the cloves, hardneck varieties tend not to keep as well as softnecks.
Chesnook red, our hardneck variety, is originally from Shvelisi, Republic of Georgia. Inchelium Red was first discovered in Inchelium, WA, on the Colville Indian Reservation. Far-flung locations! But both garlics seemed to thrive in our soil. Also, we decided to combine the names of the locations where both were found– Inchelium Shvelisi!– and make it into a Harry Potter spell that would make garlic bulbs sprout wherever it was cast.
We must be getting too excited for the release of the final HP movie this week…though I stand by the idea that it does in fact sound very much like a latin Harry Potter Spell.
We cleaned the garlic and trimmed off the roots, then scrubbed em and got them ready for curing. Garlic needs to be cured for two weeks. Our makeshift solution is to hang the cloves in our dorm rooms; they need dark, dry, well-ventilated rooms. Sam and I will be safe from vampires for the next two weeks, and then some.
When, in two weeks, the garlic emerges from the dark cocoons of our dorm rooms like beautiful butterflies from the chrysalis, we will be able to use our own supply of garlic for tasty garden treats. I’ll be sure to report back with taste differences between the Chesnook and Inchelium varieties.
Mustard greens are the dark horse of our late spring harvest.
Nobody paid much attention to em. We threw them in a bed with some kale and forgot that they were there. We didn’t think they were sexy. We didn’t think they had that much to offer. But we were wrong. Mustard greens came from behind, beating out peas and radishes, to become the most fashionable and photogenic late-spring/early-summer crop in the garden. As sam has posted earlier, “their ruffles are more elegant than a White House state dinner, more baroque than St. Peter’s Basillica.” Being a fan of alliteration, I have dubbed them Majestic Mustard Greens.
We planned to cook them up at this week’s workday, but the rain foiled that idea. Instead, we harvested a bunch (and I mean that in its descriptive rather than sales-weight sense; it was a HUGE bunch) and brought them home with me to New York for the weekend . Two birds with one stone: I got to use all of the mustard greens we had planned to cook for volunteers, and I got to prove to my family that despite what they thought of me I was in fact capable of growing food with my own two hands and gosh darnit I had the real life vegetables to prove it to them.
After browsing a few different websites looking for mustard greens recipes (I had never cooked them before. I’m pretty sure they don’t sell them at any grocery store within fifty miles of my house) I settled on a quick & easy recipe that combines them with one of the greatest joys in life: bacon.
I was not able to procure locally-raised bacon unfortunately, which would have been the best choice, but I got some nice applewood smoked bacon at the local Shoprite whose taste more than made up for the twice-the-price -of-normal-bacon premium. Seriously, people. D not continue your lives eating the wimpy, soggy, too-thin strips of sadness that pass themselves off as normal bacon. Thick-cut is the way to go.
Anyway, the recipe that follows is an amalgamation of a few different similar recipes I found online. The premise is that mixing greens of any sort with pork products of any sort produces a tasty dish that gives the greens a nice meaty flavor and gives you an excuse—greens are HEALTHY!– to eat bacon without feeling too indulgent. I think the healthiness of the greens and the unhealthiness of the bacon are a good balance. Also, you can always change the ratios a bit to make it more or less indulgent based on how you are feeling that day. Just got dumped? Pump up the bacon. Six months after being dumped and you are still drowning your sorrows in bacon and ice cream? Tone down the bacon, add some more mustard greens.
My camera was unfortunately on the fritz this weekend, so no pictures of my actual final product. But it looks something like this (photo from Cooking By The Seat of My Pants, which has a variation on the recipe that also looks tasty)
We threw ours over pasta. Any pasta will do. Extra points to you if you use whole-grain.
Mustard Greens & Bacon Over Pasta
3 bunches of mustard greens
½ lb bacon (preferably applewood, or another thick-cut variety)
2 medium white onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (any sweet vinegar will do)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Wedge of fresh parmesan cheese (to garnish)
Cook your pasta of choice according to package directions; set aside.
Remove the stem and any coarse ribs from the greens. Tear into small pieces. Wash! Really get all the dirt & grit out of the nooks and crannies of the mustard greens. You don’t want crunch in your munch.
Stick your mustard greens in as large a pot as you canfind and pour in 4-5 cups of water.Ideally, you will be able to cover the greens entirely in water. If your pot is a little smaller, no worries: as soon as the greens heat up, they will shrink.
Bring the greens to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer.
While the greens are cooking, whip out your frying pan. Grab your half pound of delicious bacon, and cook to your liking. You don’t want it to get too crispy. When it is done, take it out of the frying pan, let it cool on some paper towels, then chop it up into small pieces.
Remove all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease from the pan (my mom made me do this L ) and add a little bit of olive oil to make up for it.
Chop the two onions and mince the garlic. Add them to the bacon pan and cook over medium high heat until they are more or less translucent. Smells good, huh? Add the two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and mix thoroughly. Take off the heat.
Now go back to your greens. They should have shrunk a lot by now and look dark green. Take a nibble of one or two leaves to make sure they are fully cooked. Pour them into a colander, then (this is important!) press as much water out of the greens as possible. This will make them 1) less soggy, and 2) less bitter. You may want to fluff them up a bit at this point, as the pressing makes them shrink into compact mustard green clumps.
Take the mustard greens and chopped bacon and add them back to the onion and garlic mixture in the frying pan. Cook over medium heat, mixing until heated thoroughly.
Top bowls of pasta with greens & bacon mixture; garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
Kick back and relax, assured that your bacon guilt is assuaged by a blanket of healthy, nutrient-rich greens.
The garden threw the hippest party of the semester three weeks ago on a crisp, sunny Saturday afternoon. We wanted to celebrate the end of our first (and very succesful!) growing season, so we opened the gates and invited students and the Cambridge community to Harvestfest, a jubilee of live music, pumpkin-carving, apple-cider pressing, face-painting, chef demos, free food, and more!
We had a fantastic turnout. As you can see from the photo above, the garden was filled with students, families, tourists (one of the designated tour bus parking spaces is right in front of the plot) and passersby who were enticed inside the gate by the sweet music from our local bands. (below is Thin Heir)
The Clover Food Lab Truck served up delicious locally-sourced vegetarian food. They just opened up a brand-new restaurant in Harvard Square, a mere stone’s throw away from the garden. Practically everything on the menu is $5-6 dollars or less, which is impressive given the quality and freshness of the ingredients. Check them out at their new location on Holyoke St!
While poking around in the eggplant bed looking for ripe purple eggplants, a colorful anomaly caught my eye:
Turns out, it was actually a rogue fruit of the Snowy White variety. We had a little Snowy White plant growing in the corner of our purple eggplant bed. I did a bit of internet sleuthing and found out that when white eggplants become overripe, they turn an interesting shade of yellow, harden, and become horribly bitter.
We learned our lesson. Have to watch the snowy whites a bit more carefully! Though this did add some interesting flair to the monochromatic eggplant bed.
And while looking through my phone to find the eggplant photo I realized I have taken a few tantalizing photos of the past few weeks’ Faculty Club harvests. I am always tempted to snap a shot after I have assembled the veggies on the picnic table to be bagged and whisked away. I suppose its just the healthier counterpart to eye-candy. Eye-veggies?
Even mutant tomatoes have a special place in our harvest!
We are very excited to announce our first annual Harvest Festival! Stop by next Saturday from noon to three to partake in some Fall Festivities in the garden. more info below!
T H E H A R V A R D C O M M U N I T Y G A R D E N ‘ S
F I R S T A N N U A L H A R V E S T F E S T I V A L
Saturday October 16th, from 12-3 PM (rain or shine) at the garden plot (47 Holyoke Place)
Come celebrate the end of a successful first growing season with us!
We’ll be saying goodbye to summer growing (and the last of the tomatoes) with live music from Harvard & Boston-based bands, local chef and student cooking demos, apple cider pressing, pumpkin carving, and more.
We hope to see you there!